Pacquiao ain’t throwing in the towel
Sen. Manny Pacquiao’s chief strategist on Tuesday denied that the retired boxing champ was withdrawing from the presidential race, and slammed the “lies” being spread by an opponent.
“Sorry to disappoint those rumor-mongers spreading lies through text blasts and fake news. Sen. Manny Pacquiao will never back out from this task our Lord assigned to him,” tycoon Salvador “Buddy” Zamora said in a text message to the Inquirer.
Zamora said the “below the belt tactics employed by an opponent will not succeed and will only ensure their loss.” He did not name the opponent.
He added: “We just pray that God gives us a righteous leader come May 9. Please, not another six years of corruption, natural calamities and misery for our poor Filipino people.”
Zamora made the remarks amid persistent rumors on social media that a candidate, reportedly Pacquiao, would soon pull out of the presidential race and back Vice President Leni Robredo’s candidacy.
Robredo has consistently placed second in poll surveys but her numbers are far from those of the front-runner, the late dictator’s son Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
On Monday, Pacquiao told reporters that he was not pulling out and would do so only if God told him to.
“You all know Manny Pacquiao. I don’t back out of any fight, inside and outside the ring. The only thing that will make me decide to withdraw is if God gives me the conviction not to push through with it,” said the standard-bearer of Promdi, or the Progressive Movement for the Devolution of Initiatives, adding:
“If there is a conviction shown to me by God, I will withdraw even if it’s two days or one day before Election Day.”
This week, Pacquiao visited communities in Manila and Quezon City. He is to take his campaign to Iloilo, Bacolod and other parts of the Visayas in the coming days.
Since the start of the campaign period in February, Pacquiao has had to repeatedly deny speculations that he was withdrawing from the presidential race.
Like Zamora, he declined to name names in an interview with reporters in Quezon City on Tuesday afternoon, but called on those responsible to stop spreading gossip.
“It’s up to you to guess, but I hope they will stop it. If they plan to back out, they should just do so and join me in my campaign,” he said.
Pacquiao maintained that he would see his candidacy through: “When I decided to run, I vowed to finish it until the end, and I will not back out.”
He appeared unperturbed by local chief executives’ endorsements of his political rivals, saying: “They have the right to choose the candidate they will endorse. But I also have my own share among them… At the end of the day, I will not compromise. I am thankful for their trust and support in my candidacy.”
Pacquiao could have been standard-bearer of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, or PDP-Laban.
On Dec. 2, 2020, he and Speaker Lord Allan Velasco were sworn in as president and executive vice president, respectively, by Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, the party’s former president and the son of former Senate President and party cofounder Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr.
But Pacquiao’s leadership did not sit well with other party members. In a memorandum circular he issued in May 2021, he had to “strongly advise” party members against attending a national assembly called by the party vice chair, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.
Earlier, Cusi reportedly consulted with party mates nationwide regarding a resolution urging President Duterte to seek the vice presidency in 2022.
Pacquiao warned Cusi not to “divide” the party. But then presidential spokesperson Harry Roque issued a statement that it was Mr. Duterte who had directed Cusi “to organize, convene and preside” over the party’s national council meeting on May 31, 2021, in Cebu City.
In July 2021, Pacquiao’s faction expelled Cusi and two other officials for allegedly violating provisions of the party’s constitution with Cusi’s supposed admission that he was open to the candidacy of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte as president and her father as vice president.
Mayor Duterte is not a member of PDP-Laban.
Despite their expulsion, Cusi pushed through with the party’s national council meeting in Pampanga on July 16, 2021.
On July 17, PDP-Laban held a national assembly in which party officers were elected and 16 leadership positions were declared vacant. Pacquiao was ousted as party president and was replaced by Cusi.
No force and effect
In a Zoom meeting held simultaneously with the national assembly organized by Cusi’s group, Pimentel and the other “original” PDP-Laban members said the events during the “illegal assembly” had no force and effect because these were unauthorized by the members and unsanctioned by Pacquiao.
But Mr. Duterte widened the split by swearing in a new set of officers and castigating Pimentel for improperly installing Pacquiao as “acting president” and causing an internal rift.
Mr. Duterte also said it was his candidacy for president in 2016 that revived the PDP-Laban.
In August 2021, party secretary general Melvin Matibag said Cusi had reached out to Pacquiao with the offer for him to lead the party’s senatorial slate for 2022. But the other faction said it intended to nominate Pacquiao as the party’s standard-bearer.
Many other moves and countermoves have been made since then.
The two factions are awaiting the decision of the Commission on Elections as to which is the “legitimate” party.
—With a report from Inquirer Research INQ
Sources: Inquirer Archives
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